Miss USA Kara McCullough clarifies health care comment: 'I do believe that it should be a right'

Kara McCullough drew social media backlash during the Miss USA pageant.

ByABC News
May 16, 2017, 8:31 AM

— -- Newly-crowned Miss USA Kara McCullough clarified her remarks on health care that had drawn ire on social media, saying she believes health care "should be a right" for all.

"I am privileged to have health care and I do believe that it should be a right," McCullough, 25, said today on "Good Morning America." "I hope and pray moving forward that health care is a right for all worldwide."

She continued, "I just want people to see where I was coming from. Having a job, I have to look at health care like it is a privilege."

McCullough, a chemist at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, was crowned Miss USA 2017 on Sunday night.

When asked during the pageant if affordable health care is a right for all Americans, McCullough replied to host Julianne Hough, "I'm definitely going to say it's a privilege."

"As a government employee, I am granted health care and I see firsthand that for one to have health care, you need to have jobs," she said at the time. "So therefore, we need to continue to cultivate this environment that we're given the opportunity to have health care as well as jobs to all the American citizens worldwide."

McCullough said on "GMA" today that she was "not at all" surprised by the backlash she received online.

"I believe that is what America is based on, like having opinions and views," she said. "But I would like to just take this moment to truly just clarify ... what I said."

McCullough also drew attention during the pageant when she revealed she prefers the term "equalism" to "feminism."

“I try not to consider myself, like, this diehard like, ‘Oh, I don’t really care about men,'" she said at the pageant. "But one thing I'm going to say is though, women, we are just as equal as men when it comes to opportunity in the workplace."

McCullough also sought to clarify that comment, telling "GMA" today that she believes women "deserve a lot when it comes to opportunity in the workplace."

"For me, where I work at with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, ‘equalism’ is more of a term of understanding that no matter your gender, you are still just kind of given the same accolades on your work," McCullough said today. "I believe that if a person does a good job, they should be, you know, credited for that in a sense."

She added, "I don’t want anyone to look at it as if I’m not all about women’s rights, because I am. We deserve a lot when it comes to opportunity in the workplace as well as just like leadership positions. I’ve seen and witnessed firsthand the impact that women have."

McCullough, the daughter of a now-retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer, was born in Naples, Italy, and raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia, before she made Washington, D.C., her home, according to the Miss USA website.

She said she hopes to travel the country and use her platform as Miss USA to help spark children's interest in science and math.

"I just want children to find joy in science at a young age and not look at it like it’s difficult," she said. "I’m hoping to visit schools, do science projects, maybe do symposiums with high school students, encourage them to look at career fields in science, technology, engineering and math."

McCullough, a graduate of South Carolina State University, also plans to continue working on her outreach program, "Science Exploration for Kids."

Her win marked the second year in a row that Miss District of Columbia won the Miss USA competition.

"I don’t know if it’s in the water or just the area, but the opportunity and just the women coming out of there are amazing," McCullough said of her hometown.

ABC News' Michael Rothman contributed to this report.